In 2012, it's estimated that in the United States alone there are 17 million adults and 850,000 adolescents who have a problem with chronic alcohol consumption. Avid drinking habits could result in numerous health complications in the liver, stomach, bones, heart, and brain. While there are many alcohol addiction treatments present today, the numbers above are still increasing and a lot of families are suffering because of it.
Genetically Engineered Virus Used As Alcohol Addiction Treatment For Mice
As such, researchers have been hard at work in their labs trying to find a solution to this deep-rooted problem in our society. The most recent solution created by scientists is using a genetically engineered virus that alters a person's decision when craving liquor. This discovery is mainly focused on targeting neurons responsible for decision-making.
The researchers found that chronic, excessive drinking alters the activity of D1 and D2 neurons. They basically function as a person's "go" or "no-go" behavior, with D1 acting as the green light and D2 as the stop light. When consuming copious amount of liquor, dopamine levels increase in the brain, which in turn suppress the D2 neuron and encourages D1 activity essentially turning the brain's stop light off and constantly activating the green light, hence drinking more leads to craving more of the stuff.
Researchers tested the virus as an alcohol addiction treatment to mice who developed a drinking problem. The next step was to inject the addicted rodents with a genetically engineered virus tasked to deliver a gene into the D1 and D2 neurons. That gene encourages the neurons to express a certain protein, said the Daily Mail.
Alcoholic Mice Exhibited Decrease Craving To Liquor-Laced Water
With the protein expressed, scientists injected the mice with a chemical that binds to it. The binding then either excites or inhibit the neurons allowing the researchers to manipulate the "go" and "no-go" decision of a person. After being "infected," the addicted mice exhibited reduce interest and consumption of alcohol that was freely available.
Alcohol addiction treatment can take advantage of this process and apply it to people who are finding difficulty in letting go of their liquor cravings, said The Conversation. Of course, the method hasn't yet transitioned to human research as other details are being perfected by the scientists. Experts say that using the virus to treat alcoholism will take years before it is integrated into human clinical treatment.